Construction / Molds
Scoring / Breaking Glass
Fitting The Glass
Solder / Soldering
Releasing a Shade
Ring and Rim
Tools, Aids etc.
Health & Safety Concerns
Selling Your Artwork
With so much great glass on the market, it’s a shame to have to
rely on manufactured jewels that are either the wrong color, or just plain
blah. Find some glass that will enhance the mystery and excitement of
your lamp and experiment.
Lora Dill and Taeko Hirose: Make your own jewels by cutting 2 same-size
layers of G.N.A. glass circles for each jewel...one circle with color
and the other circle clear. Use the colored G.N.A. for the top layer and
clear G.N.A. on the bottom. If a very light color is chosen for the jewel,
use this color for both layers. Your fusing will be successful when you
use clear G.N.A. for the bottom layer with other manufactured glass for
the top color circle. Since the glass will spread out during firing, the
glass circles are cut slightly smaller than the final size you want. Use
a small table-top kiln and brush the kiln brick with glass release and
use “Spray A” on the top layer of the glass circles. Check
the progress of your fusing when the kiln reaches between 1400 and 1500
degrees. Always use clean glass. Try melting only one color in the kiln
at a time, since fusing time varies with color. You could use Elmer’s
glue to hold glass pieces together, but apply it only around the edges
of the pieces to be fused. Bullseye’s Cranberry glass makes beautiful
Nikki O’Neill: To produce jewels, Tiffany pressed molten glass into
brass molds and used a kiln to anneal. I’m sure he used a furnace
to get molten glass, but I just use a torch and kiln for annealing. I
heat and melt the ends of two rods of glass (same or different colors)
in the torch until the mass is about right, take the blob out of the fire
for a few seconds to get a “skin” and to be able to handle
it easier and then I plop the molten glass into the mold and press. After
a second or two, I take the glass (still attached to one of the rods)
out of the mold and torch off the chill marks. I cool the glass in the
flame a little, clip off the rod attachment punty, and let the jewel fall
on a very hot hotplate. Then I pick it up with warmed forceps and place
it in a hot kiln to anneal. You can make jewels from any rods that you
have, just don’t mix COE’s. To make glass leaves, use a two
sided press or “masher” with ridges to make the veins. I have
an oval shaped leaf press. Both halves of the press match up and are welded
onto the jaws of a pair of pliers. By pulling and flattening, I make the
rough shape of the leaf at the torch on a punty. To make smaller leaves,
I use a longer-than-wider slightly twisted mold which is tapered at the
tip and more heart-shaped at the top. While moldable hot, position the
glass in the mold and quickly clamp down. Hold for a second or two and
then release. The veins are now present and the glass can be shaped more
Patti Curtin: All glass manufacturers have their own formula for making
glass. For that reason, not all glasses are compatible. Bullseye and Uroboros
both make a line of glass that is tested compatible at 90 COE. Uroboros
and Spectrum both make a line of glass that is tested compatible at 96
COE. When the manufacturer tests it, they are allowed to be .5 COE off.
However, if you have glass tested compatible at 90 COE and one glass is
actually 89.5 and a second that’s 90.5 you may still end up with
breakage because of incompatibility. Certain companies have many colors
in their palette that may be compatible - for instance, GNA colors are
compatible. Kokomo also has many colors in the 96 COE range. If you want
to make something like a snowflake, you could use the same sheet of white
since all glass is compatible within its own sheet. However, another run
of white, by the same manufacturer, but made later the same day, may not
be compatible with what they produced earlier in the day. Bottom line:
testing and checking with polarization will assure you of compatibility.
Stephanie Braman: When fusing iridescent glass, here is a trick to help
maintain the iridized coating and also give the finished piece a deeper
look. This requires two pieces of glass - one iridized and the other cathedral.
Cut out your pattern piece from each of the glasses, then lay one atop
the other with the iridized coating facing the cathedral glass. Proceed
to do a full fuse. (It’s best to fuse at a lower temperature over
a longer period of time in order to reduce the chance of the coating burning
off.) What happens is the coating is trapped between the glasses. If you
are using a textured iridescent, the iridized pattern will turn out very
Merle Jones & Don Conti: Purchase fire bricks from a pottery supply
outlet. Make a cardboard template based on the angle of the lamp mold
where you want to add slumped pieces. Carve and then sand the brick to
match the contour of the template. Lay the glass piece to be slumped upside
down on the prepared fire brick and fire it. The Quick Start Kiln is ideal
for small slumping jobs and is reasonably priced. (Run a test to insure
that the glass you want to use in slumping will retain its color.) There
is no need to anneal these small pieces...pull them right out of the kiln
as soon as the slumping is done to your satisfaction.
Chuck Berets: Warm the mold before you fire the glass. It needs to be
at a saturated 200 degrees F so there won’t be any kiln shock. The
slump will start at 1100 degrees. If you see a color change in your glass,
slow down the slump by firing more slowly.
Glass just removed from the kiln can be cooled in a covered container
filled with vermiculite.
Pat Pecora & Barbara Grollo: Use a fiberblanket with fiber mold hardener
called Moist Pack® to slump glass:
• Cut a piece of the blanket a few inches larger in all directions
than the area in which you are slumping pieces to fit.
• Press the material inside the area you’re planning to slump,
smoothing as much as possible.
• Leave it place to air dry for 2 to 3 days - enough to harden for
• Fire it in the kiln to at least 50 degrees above the temperature
you will need for slumping (1300 to 1350 degrees F) since the glass should
slump at about 1250 degrees F.
• When it has cooled, three coats of kiln wash should be applied
to the mold. (There seems to be no need to re-coat the mold between firings;
that seems to cause the material to break down quicker.) Use in a well-ventilated
area since it contains ether.
Walt Boepple: At our last meeting, Joan Luckhurst showed her method of
making a slumping mold so that she could slump some glass for her new
lamp. Joan went to a local pharmacy and got a small box of gauze that
is filled with plaster of paris in the webbing. She placed the piece of
gauze in water, removed it and placed it over her mold. After it hardened,
she had made a perfect mold of her mold! Now the new new mold was ready
to be filled with mold mix. When set up, this is what she used as her
slumping mold to hold the glass. With this method, you don't have to put
the mold mix on your mold.
Diana Springer: I make my own molds from Styrofoam and carve them to the
shapes I want.
Alex Glassman: I went to a restaurant supply store and bought a 24”
wok. The wok had the right shape for a hanging lamp and because it didn’t
have a great curve, longer pieces of glass could be used in its design.
This shade is on the cover of our 1998 calendar.
Barry Richters: Just because you receive a request to make a lamp with
an unusual shape, is no reason to back off. The last 6 lamps I’ve
made were selected from books and even from our own calendar after a customer
says, “I want one something like that, only a bit smaller, or flatter.”
My next move is to draw a side profile of the lamp on a metal sheet, then
cut out the shape with tinsnips. I make the mould out of a solid block
of styrene foam. If necessary, layers of styrene can be glued together
with a water-based wood glue to produce a solid block the same height
as the shade. (as you reduce the block to the desired shape, be aware
that you’ll have a snow storm!) Having marked the diameter of the
lamp on the block, I trim outside the perimeter of the circle with a handsaw.
Using the internal portion of the metal profile (pattern) as a guide,
I whittle and rasp away the styrene until the metal profile fits over
the mould on all sides. Then I give the mould a coat of sealant paint.
After it dries, I cover it with masking tape. The design is drawn on the
taped mould. After the lamp has been constructed, the masking tape can
be removed or painted over, so a new design can be drawn. Being an ex-sheetmetal
worker, I draw on my pattern making experience and use sheetmetal to make
some of my moulds. However, these shapes are limited to cones and multi-sided
flat section shades. I still cover these moulds with masking tape and
draw on the lamp design.
Chaz Smith: Since the pattern for Tiffany’s Butterfly lamp wasn’t
available, I decided to reproduce the mold and design on my own. I found
photos in the Neustadt and Duncan books. Even though I wasn’t able
to find a complete photo of one repeat, I was able to come close enough
so that I could fill in the repeat.
Materials: • photo of lamp (straight on view of one side) •dimensions
of lamp - ring size, diameter and height • photocopier - to enlarge
or reduce the photo • opaque projector
• 1/4” plywood or cardboard - to cut out profile of half of
the lamp • styrofoam insulation sheet - enough to cut circles the
diameter of the lamp and stack to the height of the lamp • glue
for styrofoam (I used wood glue) • 1/4” plywood - 12”x12”
• motor with buffing wheel attachment • double sided tape
(such as carpet tape) • saw, sandpaper, ruler and marking pen •
clear packing tape • safety glasses
1. Enlarge photo of lamp to size you want it to be. (I taped several sheets
together to obtain the complete image.)
2. Cut out this image, fold it in half and trace this half onto 1/4”
plywood or cardboard. (This profile will be used to form the styrofoam,
so be exact.)
3. Cut rough circles of styrofoam insulation that are about an inch larger
than the diameter of the shade.
4. Glue the circles together to form a stack that is somewhat higher than
the shade height and allow the glue to dry.
5. Drill a hole in the center of the 12”x12” piece of plywood
so that it can be mounted on the buffer arbor. This piece may be cut round
and should be made smaller than the lower rim on the lamp.
6. Mount plywood/arbor combination to the bottom of the styrofoam stack
with double sided tape - being careful to center it. (You may need to
drill a hole in the styrofoam for the arbor protrusion.
7. Mount the arbor on the motor. (If you have a foot switch control, use
it to power the motor; otherwise, get a friend to switch the power on
and off.) Take this assembly outside, as this gets very messy.
8. Put on safety glasses and briefly apply power to the motor so that
the styrofoam plug starts to spin. (I kept giving it short bursts - never
getting up to full speed.)
9. Use the saw and begin forming the plug. Hold the saw horizontally and
work slowly so as not to break it off the arbor and turn the plug down
to the diameter of the lamp.
10. Turn the styrofoam plug to the shape of the lamp by using the plywood
(or cardboard) profile as a guide.
11. Sand briefly with coarse sandpaper.
12. Remove the lamp mold from the arbor and take a shower to get those
cursed little white things out of your hair.
13. Use the opaque projector to shine the image of the photo onto the
styrofoam lamp mold. Be sure the mold is level and square to the projector.
(You may need to enlarge or reduce the photo image so that it can be projected
correctly onto your mold.)
14. With a marking pen, trace the pattern lines onto the mold. You may
need to change focus for different areas. (My lamp had three repeats,
so I picked one repeat and then made sure they were spaced at equal thirds
around the mold...the rest fell 62
15. After the image is traced onto the mold to your satisfaction, cover
it with clear packing tape to protect the mold from Tacky Wax and flux.
Ross Whipple (Finland) writes: “The high price of lamp molds has
been a real put-off here, so recently, while visiting one of our flea
markets with imagination in high gear, I purchased a 20” copper
dome for just 90¢ to use to make my own mold. First off, I bought
2 rolls of 3/4” masking tape. I tore off a whole bunch of short
pieces - 1 or 1 1/2 inches long and set them aside. Then I started to
cover the copper dome with longer pieces - with the sticky side up! I
tacked these in place at the bottom and top of the dome with one of the
short pieces -(sticky side down). I continued until the dome was covered
with the sticky tape. Next, I covered the dome again with long pieces
of tape, but this time the sticky side is placed down - no need now to
apply short pieces of tape. After this was completed, I covered it one
more time, so that the dome was covered with 3 layers of tape. I used
a razor blade to cut a circle at the top (about 2” in diameter)
and then cut around the bottom edge of the dome. I was able to lift off
a very fine blank masking tape mold! I replaced it onto the dome, drew
my design upon it, covered it with clear plastic tape and then proceeded
to build my lamp! After completing the soldering on the outside, I lifted
the whole thing off the dome, removed my pattern/mold from inside the
lamp and did the inside soldering on my lamp. Anyone could do this with
a lamp made out of anything. The variety of shapes and sizes you find
at fleamarkets is endless and fun!”
Walt Boepple: When I walked into a garden supply store, I noticed a squirrel
baffle that, to me looked just like a clear plastic lamp mold! My mind
thinks in "glass" so whenever I see something like that, I wonder
if it could be done in "glass". I look at objects and wonder
if they would be a good "mold" to use for a lamp.
Carol Conti did a lamp a few years ago and used a boat buoy as a mold.
Joan Luckhurst used a white bathroom type globe for a lamp a few years
ago , but reminded us: don't solder it all together on the mold, because
it couldn’t come off! There are no limitations as to what we can
use for making our own molds.
Joan Bengston: The way I make molds is a lot of work and takes tools that
many of you probably don't have. The process isn't for the person looking
for a quick and easy way, but just in case you’re interested I'll
share it. I start out with a drawing of half the profile of the desired
shade (from the center to the outside edge) actual size. I transfer that
to masonite or thin plywood and carefully cut it out with a band saw.
Then I take a 4' x 8' sheet of 2" thick styrofoam insulation that
I buy from the lumberyard supply. I cut circles bigger than I need for
the shape of the mold and glue the layers together onto a plywood circle
base. At this point it looks rather crude, five or six disks high. My
husband puts it on the turning lathe that has been geared down to slow
speed and turns it to the shape I want using the masonite template I have
made. His lathe has a chuck on the outside end where he can shape large
objects. Instead of regular lathe cutting tools he uses a planer that
looks to me a lot like a kitchen food shredder/grater. It smooths that
styrofoam down beautifully. Then I cover it with fiberglass cloth and
put three coats of fiberglass resin on it. This gives me a nice hard surface
to work on. I sand it smooth with a sanding block, dust it off well and
spray paint it white. A hole the
size of a threaded lamp rod is drilled through the center. (I need this
for my shade positioner.) And there I have a blank mold any size, shape
or description I want. For this method you must use a special resin that
will not melt the styrofoam, but be forewarned that it is very expensive.
All fiberglass has an extremely powerful smell and is best used in a garage
or outdoors. A catalog can be obtained from Wicks Aircraft Supply, 410
Pine Street, Highland, IL 62249-1243 Phone: 618 654-7447
Bonnie Eckert: I do a small amount of plating in almost every lamp. Sometimes
there’s a “clinker” piece that looked fine on the light
table, but just didn’t look right when I had it off the mold. Plating
can do wonders! It takes some experimenting with different glass - sometimes
just ice white makes a big difference. In the 28” Peony cone I just
finished, I plated four of the centers - but that was planned. The centers
are very large and seemed to demand extra treatment. I cut some Chicago
Art Glass irridescent white mini-turtlebacks which made the centers really
stand out. Then I plated on the inside with some Bullseye cranberry. That
gave the centers depth and are really beautiful. Try it sometime when
you just can’t find the right color or effect. You’ll be pleasantly
Ichiro Tashiro: When I plate, I cut two identical-sized pieces of glass
with different color/texture. I foil each piece individually. Then, I
take the pieces and tape them together with a much wider copper foil.
Make sure that the foil is tightly glued to the pieces properly. (By taping
the two pieces together, you do not have to worry about dirt getting in
between the pieces.) Position this on the mold. Please note that this
piece is higher (extruding) than the rest of the pieces because the thickness
of the double piece is, well, double. While soldering, the important point
is DO NOT SOLDER this double piece now. After the rest of the lamp is
soldered, carefully remove it from the mold with the unsoldered double
piece and push the piece in so that the outer surface becomes level with
the rest of the lamp. Solder in place.
Lynne Salcetti: When I plate a piece, I foil each piece and tin the foil
with a very thin layer of lead. Then, I lead the two pieces together around
the outside with just enough solder to seal them together. After that,
I place them on the mold and use the method that Ichiro uses. (Place them
on the mold until everything else is soldered. Remove from the mold and
solder the layered piece in place.) This works fine for me.
Marie Jo Murray: Glass pieces that are to be plated should only be tinned
at the areas where the two will meet. After tinning, clean thoroughly
and apply patina to both pieces. Use a small amount of flux to solder
the pieces together after you’ve removed the patina from those areas
with fine steel wool. Sometimes, as I am choosing glass for a lamp’s
background, I go wild! In one lamp, I layered five different types of
glass - including stipple water glass, to achieve the illusion of a lake.
I even layered the petals of flowers that are near the lake with a clear
ripple. This additional layer of glass gave the illusion of water ripples
refecting off the flowers.
Chaz Smith: Use a piece of mylar to trace the leadline around the piece
to be plated. The tracing should be made larger than the piece to be layered
so that, after the glass is foiled and soldered in place, it will not
cut out any light. Copy the tracing on to your plating glass and cut.
Foil and tin the plating glass. Clean this glass as well as the area to
be plated. Hold the piece in place and tack solder without using flux.
Solder all the way around, but leave a small opening at the bottom. By
soldering all around the piece, no light will show through gaps. The small
opening is important so that water can drain out after you’ve washed
your lamp. When you’re satisfied with the plating, apply patina.
Paul Crist: Do your own mosaic work on the Dragonfly or Arrowroot Urn
bases. You will save some money as well as getting the colors you want
to blend with your lamp! Make a paper pattern of the background on the
base and lay this over the sheet of glass you have chosen. Cut it as a
large piece and then cut into at least a thousand rectangles! Glue them
on the base in the order in which they were cut.
Hal Sandler: Not wanting to buy a commercially mass-produced mosaic base
to hold my Cobweb/Apple Blossom shade, I designed and built my own mosaic
for a less expensive base (Spelter 134) and used glass that was compatible
with this shade. I also made my own mosaic for the 16” Dragonfly
and applied it to Classic American Lighting’s Dragonfly Urn. The
making of a mosaic for a lamp base is a 6 step process.
Step 1. An existing pattern must be copied or designed to fill the area
on the lamp base. In order to scale the design or pattern to fit the required
area, architects linen is used to cover the area of the lamp base that
will receive the glass tiles. An exact outline of the area to be covered
is drawn on the linen after it dries and can then be transferred to paper
or any other surface. This approach will work if there are panels (repeats)
involved or a continuous design is used. If the surface is highly curved,
darts must be used in the pattern or allowance and compensation accomplished
during the final glass application process (see below).
Step 2. Knowing the exact dimensions, a previous design can be transferred
or scaled to fit or an original drawing executed. Once the area design
is executed, colors must be chosen and glass selected. Several copies
are made of this pattern - at least one of which is a mylar copy.
Step 3. Opaque mylar (identical to that used for Odyssey patterns) is
used to cut templates and is affixed to the glass for subsequent cutting.
(Making of a mask prior to glass selection is useful, but it must be realized
that light will not shine through the glass and so the glass should be
chosen for its opaque coloration when light is shining onto the surface
rather than through it.) The pattern is cut to tight tolerance. After
cutting the glass, the final assembly is accomplished on one of the pattern
copies (paper) and evaluated as to its color highlights and pull-in effects
from lying next to constrasting colors. The width of the seam between
pieces is totally up to the discretion of the artist. Remember that these
seams will be filled with grout at a later stage. Step 4. Horizontal cuts
are made in each glass piece of the pattern. The first cut is arranged
to be in the middle of the piece and located to run horizontal to the
platform of the base by drawing a line through the piece on the pattern.
The width of a given horizontal cut is maintained throughout and tested
for adequate coverage on the pattern. I have had almost 100% success in
making these straight horizontal cuts in the various pieces using a well
lubricated glass cutter and running pliers. I do not recommend breaking
by hand or using 2 sets of pliers. Obviously, the best effects are obtained
when all pieces are cut parallel. After some practice, these cuts can
be done by hand and the widths marked on the glass with a sharpie. For
larger pieces, a ruler serves best. The horizontal cuts are then laid
on the original pattern; they do not have to have widths that fit end
to end with adjacent pieces. There is no grinding of these pieces, or
of subsequent vertical cuts. Vertical cuts are made with widths at your
discretion. The vertical cuts are made to establish a brick laying pattern
for the piece and the over-all pattern. Smaller cuts are used should the
surface have significant curvature. Step 5. The pieces are affixed using
E6000 industrial strength silastic glue, manufactured by Eclectic Products
Inc, New Jersey City, NJ. Before starting, I lay down a straight horizontal
line all the way around the lamp base using masking tape at the center
horizontal line of the pattern. One then works upward and downward from
this line in subsequently affixing pieces. A thin layer of the silastic
is applied to each individual piece and worked by gluing the center tiles
first and then moving toward the periphery for each specific horizontal
row. Each piece is held in place by hand for approximately 30 seconds.
Excess glue is avoided by using a cotton applicator (Q tip) so that none
of the silastic comes up in the seams between pieces that later need to
be grouted.(Should this occur, the excess can be removed with an Xacto
knife, but this is messy and difficult after the glue has dried.) Some
touch-up grinding may have to take place to get final pieces to exactly
fit in relief crevices of the pattern on the base along the periphery.
The base is placed in a horizontal position during application of tiles
and from side-to-side as tiles are placed towards the periphery. The base
is left in the horizontal position over night to minimize the effects
of gravity. Step 6. After pieces have dried over night they can be grouted.
Use non-sanded grout since the spaces between tiles are at a minimum.
Tint the white grout after making a paste using water. (Various tints
are available as small tubes of concentrated paint pigment at hardware
stores.) For regular antique bronze patina, I use burnt umber tint. I
use masking tape to cover the edge of the base and not allow grout to
contact this area since the lime in the grout attacks and discolors the
patina. I do final touch up with a tooth brush and steel wool and use
shoe polish on the edges where the tiles meet the patinated surface.
Joan Bengtson: Most chipping is done on window glass or thicker plate
The process may be done on whole pieces of glass without any resist or
design work. Wonderful results can be achieved by chipping the flashed
side of flashed antique glass. Materials needed: animal hide glue granules,
cold water, sandblast resist, masking tape and silica gel (optional).
•Clean glass well and apply sandblast resist, working out bubbles.
•Transfer desired design onto the resist. •Cut along design
lines with a sharp stencil knife. •Peel the resist off the areas
to be chipped. •Sandblast thoroughly. •Carefully brush or
vacuum away dust on the glass, but don’t use any cleaner. •To
conserve glue or to confine it to specific areas, make dams with 1/2”
(or wider) masking tape. •Fold the tape lengthwise - off center
and sticky sides together, leaving about 1/4” of adhesive exposed
along one long edge for anchoring it to the resist. •Stick the exposed
adhesive to the resist at least 1/2” away from the etched area that
you will be chipping - bending it so the doubled part stands up to hold
the puddle of glue. •Mix glue granules and cold water in a ratio
of 1 part glue to 2 parts water by weight, not volume. (Use a kitchen
scale.) •Cover the container and let soak a few hours. •Set
the container in a little water in a covered pan - like a double boiler.
•Heat slowly and stir occasionally, being sure it doesn’t
boil or cook, until the glue is about as warm as the hand can stand (140-150
degrees F.) •The glass should at least be at room temperature. •Make
sure the glass is level. •Pour glue and spread very quickly. I use
my hand to spread the glue to a resonably even thickness of 1/16”
- 1/8”. Thin is better than too thick. Don’t go back and touch
up since the glue gels very quickly and you risk loosening the glue from
the glass. •Let dry at room temperature with gentle circulation
until the glue is leathery but still soft enough to cut with your stencil
knife. •Cut through the glue along the design lines at the edges
of the resist. This makes a nice clean sharp edge to the chipped 66 design
area. •Continue to air dry until the glue gets transparent and you
can see tension starting. Drying time is quite variable depending on temperature
and humidity, but usually it takes 12-24 hours. •Now, you want to
force fast drying. What you choose to do depends on the size of the glass,
the season of the year, etc. Use one or more of the following methods:
set up fans, turn up the heat in the room, hang heat lamps above the glass
or set glass in the sun. Small projects may be finished with silica gel.
•Cover the glass with a thin cloth. •Sprinkle silica gel over
the cloth. (This makes rescuing the silica gel for reuse easier so that
it doesn’t get mixed in with the glue chips.) •Place this
assembly in a plastic bag or cover it tightly with plastic. Soon, the
glue will start to shrink and split. As it continues to shrink, it pulls
the surface of the glass off in a fern-like pattern. You can hear it crackle.
Some of the pieces pop and fly off the glass, but don’t “help”
it. Be patient and let it work. •When it’s done chipping,
you have a lot of glue pieces with thin, sharp glass on one side to clean
up. Brush it away carefully (but don’t use your hand) and dispose
of it. •Tiny bits of glue that remain stuck on the glass can be
removed by soaking with water. •Now you can peel off the resist
and polish up the finished glass with your favorite glass cleaner.
Ted Hasenstaub: My experience in making filigrees came out of necessity.
It all started when I found a lamp in an auction catalog by Tiffany that
I fell in love with. It was the Zodiac lamp. A 22" globe type lamp
that had all the Zodiac signs arranged around the globe. I knew that I
had to build this lamp. Thus, the filgree challenge. I assumed ( never
assume ) that this would be a fairly easy task. But soon found out that
there was a little bit more to it. I started out talking to my local stained
glass store. They told me you could use thin brass stock,. 006" -
.008" thick, and nitric acid to etch them. I investigated this nitric
acid method and it didn't take long to decide that this was definitely
the wrong way to go. Without extremely efficient venting, nitric acid
fumes are lethal. Enough said. I had to find another way. I have done
some electronic circuit design and have etched out my own copper coated
circuit boards. I thought that this may be a way to do the filigrees.
I went to a hobby store and purchased a roll of thin sheet copper .004"
thick ( it was used for doll houses). I then went to Radio Shack and purchased
a couple of bottles of Ferric Chloride, and an etch resistant pen. These
are both used to etch copper circuit boards. I cut out a small piece of
the copper and drew a small design on it with the etch resistant pen.
I poured the Ferric Chloride into a plastic container and then dropped
in the copper piece. I came back in about 15 or 20 minutes to remove the
piece. THERE WAS NO PIECE LEFT! I thought at first that I left it in too
long but after a few more pieces disappeared, it became obvious what the
problem was. I never protected the backside of the copper. What a dumb
mistake. The ferric chloride ate through both sides of the copper sheet.
On the next piece I protected the back with a piece of clear contact paper.
Its plastic base made it impervious to the acid. The next piece came out
ok but a little thin, I left it in too long. I adjusted the time by trial
and error and finally achieved a half way decent looking piece. The next
step was drawing the Zodiac filigrees. I thought that I could draw them
on a sheet of paper, lay them over a sheet of clear contact paper and
use a razor knife to cut them out, then attach them to the copper sheets.
After drawing about 40 stick looking figures I finally was able to get
one that looked pretty good. I tried cutting it on to the contact paper
but with no success. The paper always ripped and I couldn't get the detail
that I wanted. I had to figure out another way. Looking through glass
catalogs, I came across some Zodiac stencils used for etching glass. They
were called rub n etch. I purchased 3 sets. These turned out to be the
wrong size so I had to modify them. I steel wooled off the copper and
then transferred the stencil onto the copper by rubbing it with a small
stick. I then used the clear contact paper to block out large areas. To
be able to get small detail I again went to Radio Shack and purchased
some printed circuit board resist material. This contained little pieces
of resist material that I transfered to the copper. I then used a very
small Exacto knife to cut out the designs that I wanted. By trial and
error I was able to get the filigrees that I wanted. I then proceeded
to the ferric chloride solution. The first few came out fine, but then
it kept taking longer to achieve to etching. After talking to the people
at Radio Shack, they suggested heating to ferric chloride solution to
about 85' f. I placed a floodlamp over the ferric chloride solution and
warmed it up to about 80' f. This proved to be an important key. The filigrees
came out much crisper than before in a shorter period of time. I ended
up doing the previous filigrees over again. After I had all the filigrees
done I used my soldering iron to coat both sides of the filigrees with
a thin coat of solder because they were very thin at this point. I kept
them in a ziplock bag until I used them to prevent oxidation.
note: read more about this lamp in “A Sampling of Designing Procedures”.
Peter Grotepass: Making filigree is really not a secret. I put one of
the original size on my photocopy machine, reduce it to 65%, and make
some *high contrast* copies on paper. I cut out the prints and leave 2-3
mm ( approx. 1/8 inch) of paper at the edges, then I put the patterns
on a piece of black carbon. From this I make 3 copies on transparent ppc
copyfilm. To get my "film" for exposing to the etching resist
coated brass, I fix the three copies with adhesive spray exactly on top
of each other. I expose the 0.2mm (under 1/8 inch) brass plate, coated
with positive etching resist (bought ready to use from an electronics
store) to UV light for 10 min. I develop the brass
plate in a 20° C (68oF) bath with chemicals, however *which* chemicals
I really don´t know. (I asked in the electronics store, but they
didn´t know either.) It is a white powder, and there is only "Entwickler
" (developer) written on the package. When the pattern appears on
the brass in the developer bath, I rinse clean with water. The etching
process takes place in a 50°C (122 degree F) bath of Natriumperoxyd
(300 grams in 1 Liter of water) for 10-12 minutes. That´s all. The
equipment costs, in total, about $350.00 US; chemicals and materials are
extra. The etching tank is made from clear glass, is very small and stands
upright, like a little aquarium. An electronic thermostat is necessary
and a thermometer; therefore the expense. It works well.
Chaz Smith: The basic principle is that filigree is a thin metal with
holes in it. We could cut or punch these holes, but this would become
rather tedious! An acid solution will dissolve copper (just like the patina,
only much faster.) Since we don't want to dissolve the whole sheet of
copper, but rather only those portions not required in the filigree we
must find some way of preventing the acid from attacking this portion
we want as the finished piece. We must protect the back of the copper
so the acid doesn't eat away the whole sheet from the back. You can use
contact paper, but any water/ acid resistant material will work. Now we
must apply a suitable resist material to the front of the copper sheet,
in the design of the desired filigree, which will prevent the acid from
attacking this area. (This is the same principle used in acid etching
glass.) I used the black "fine point" Sharpie markers exclusively
when I made printed circuit boards- the ones that are in all electronic
equipment.) These Sharpie markers have a pointed felt tip and leave a
heavy black line. It is important that a new marker be used so that it
draws a solid heavy trace, as an old one that is partially dried up will
not provide a solid line. The filigree pattern could be drawn with the
marker and etched in the acid. However this could get rather tedious and
does not lend itself well to multiple copies. (In the early '90's I read
an article in one of the electronics magazines about a film that could
be used to transfer images to pc boards for etching. A friend and I tried
using standard overhead transparency film and achieved satisfactory results.
This was the film (clear plastic sheets) they used back in high school
to project the image the teacher was writing up onto the screen.It is
sold as office supply stores and comes in standard 8.5X11 sheets.) Instead
of using Sharpie marker for the resist, photocopy "ink" will
work as well. We must have a way of transferring a photocopied image to
the copper to make the filigree. The toner or "ink" on a photocopy
machine or laser printer is actually a very fine powder. It is made to
stick to the paper with static electricity, then melted in place. Ever
notice fresh copies are warm? What we want to do is to melt the image
off the copy and onto the copper. We must remember, however, that the
copy is flipped over to do this, so the image on the copy must be a mirror
image of what we want the filigree to be so that when it is flipped over
it is correct. The copy must be dark so that when it is melted onto the
copper, a sufficient amount is there to block the acid. So make a dark
image of your desired filigree and photocopy it onto a sheet of transparency
film. This should be a solid copy. Flip this copy over so the image is
on the bottom, and lie it on top of the copper. Now use a standard iron
to melt the toner from the transparency onto the copper. Be sure the iron
is set low enough that the transparency film doesn't melt. Now you have
an image on the front of the copper, and the back of the copper is protected.
Its time to etch- let acid eat away all the unprotected copper that is
not part of the filigree. Again Radio Shack sells the appropriate acid-
ferric chloride. It appears as a dark brown liquid. Pour it into a suitable
pan; I used a Pyrex dish about 1/2 to 1 inch deep.Submerge the copper
sheet with the filigree pattern on it into the acid. Gently agitate the
copper back and forth to wash away dissolved copper and keep fresh acid
on the surface - a pair of plastic tongs is useful here. This agitation
will speed the process and improve the quality of the etch. Don't be afraid
to take the copper out to check on progress. By the time it is finished
you will have the filigree stuck to the contact paper. This should take
5 to 15 minutes. Wash this off well when it is done to stop the action
of the acid. Now use fine steel wool to clean the marker or toner off
the copper. Any slight imperfections can be trimmed with an X-acto or
filed when tinning. Some points to remember - always wear your safety
glasses when playing with acid. Have a water supply available to wash
any spills. I did this in the basement sink. Wear old clothes - acid can
make holes. Oh yeah, and don't answer the phone or the acid will eat everything
before you hang up! This is really a very simple process. I encourage
you all to try it! Don't be scared by the acid - it's not that strong.
Experiment with a Sharpie marker to see how the etching process works.
Have fun watching the copper disappear!
SB Anthony asked about paints that can be fired in a regular oven. She’s
used vitreous paints in her little kiln, but found that the firing often
changes the transparency and color of some glass.
Lorrie Gordon: Pebo makes two such paints that I’ve used on glass
- Porcelaine and Vitraine. Porcelaine was originally developed for ceramics
and is opaque on glass. Vitraine was deloped for glass and remains more
transparent. Both are applied and then “baked” at a low temperature
in a regular oven. They stand up to the dishwasher test, the window cleaner
test, and more importantly, the fingernail test! No one can say how long
they will endure since these products only came out a few years ago. The
oven temperature is so low that the glass doesn’t heat up enough
to impact color. I would suggest that you paint the pieces first and then
solder them into your project. These paints can be purchased at craft
stores and at some art supply stores.
Dianne Lee: When inserting the glass panels into a brass frame, do you
design to fit just inside the opening and solder around the inside of
the opening, or do you cut and design the panels to fit inside the complete
panel - fitting top to bottom and side to side on each of the four openings?”
Jenny Hanley-Palmer at Odyssey, and a member of ASGLA, instructs us to
allow about 1/4” overlap to the edges of your pattern so that each
side can be soldered to the inside of the frame. She also emphasized that
we should “rough up” the brass before trying to solder the
glass panels to it.
Joan Bengtson: When hanging a shade upside down, it is especially important
to run several vertical support wires on the inside of the shade from
the aperture to the rim. Hanging chains should be attached not at the
rim but about one-third of the way in from the rim. This is aesthetically
pleasing as well as structurally sound. If possible, plan ahead and create
loops in three (or for whatever number of chains you use) evenly spaced
support wires for attaching the chains. If it proves too challenging to
get the location right, make the looped wires separately to attach later.
Cut pieces of wire 2” - 3” long and wrap the center of the
wire around a small pen or other round object that approximates the diameter
you want the opening to be. Then solder these looped wires securely over
the support wires. The long ‘tails’ on the loops will add
strength. Depending upon the design of the solder lines, the ‘tails’
may have to be bent to conform to the shape of those lines before they
are soldered in place.
Marcia Field: The thought of using pebbles in your lamp shades may never
have occurred to you, but I have had such fun over the past several years
preparing the pebbles, fashioning them into “clusters” and
then designing and creating the lamp shades, that I thought I would share
my technique with you. Nature has provided for us a bounty of materials
for lampshade making in the form of beach worn pebbles. I don’t
know where Tiffany found his pebbles, but he produced a lamp in 1906,
(page 96 in The Lamps of Tiffany Studios book) that is made up of the
same little pebble cluster “flowers” that I have found so
interesting. I include my technique here, in the hope that you too can
enjoy this endeavor. I collected my pebbles on Sunset Beach in Cape May,
N.J., a unique beach in that the currents tend to deposit beach worn pebbles
in preference to just sand. They come in a variety of sizes from about
a mm to an inch or two. The beauty of these pebbles is that most of them
are made of quartz and are therefore either transparent (thus the name
Cape May diamonds) or translucent, and they come in several colors, red
or pink, yellow, beige, white, and gray. I choose shapes that tend to
be flat and that are round or oval. Since the pebbles are already well
tumbled from the surf I need only tumble them for two to four weeks in
fine grit and then polishing compound to achieve a high gloss, glassy
finish. Then I’m ready to create my clusters. Once tumbled, I divide
the pebbles by color, size and shape and place them into plastic baggies
for safe keeping. In order to create the clusters, I pour out the group
I desire into a box and start selecting pebbles in sets of 5 or 6 that
are near identical and place these into the separate divisions of a candy
box. An egg carton would also work, or any container separated into little
compartments. Once I have several clusters set aside, I can then start
foiling. Depending upon the thickness of the stone, I cut copper foil
(either 3/16 or 7/32 in width) in half lengthwise and wrap the edges of
the stones as I go. I enjoy this wrapping activity because I need not
be in my studio. Since I’m not cutting glass or soldering, I can
sit in front of a TV or be with family in a much more casual environment.
I make sure that to keep the pebbles of any set together, for once foiled
they will ultimately be soldered into a cluster. When I started the soldering
operation, I found it difficult to keep the roly-poly stones in a circle
in order to solder them. I solved the problem by placing them onto the
sticky side of a piece of duct tape which was wrapped sticky side out
around a small piece of plywood. Voila! The stones stay right where you
want them, and after soldering can be easily pulled off the tape, and
the tape used again and again. When finished, the little clusters will
end up with a hole in the middle, of any size from about 1 to 3 mm. Into
these centers I then place a piece of dalle de verre that I have cut to
fit, and have wrapped with a strip of foil that may be even less wide
than that used for the pebbles. Alternatively you could simply solder
the hole closed or use a smaller pebble, but I like the sparkle of that
little piece of glass in the center. Once you have created all the finished
clusters that you need, you’re all set to make your shade. If you
wish to make a shade like Tiffany’s, start at the bottom of the
mold and work your way up using the largest clusters at the lower edge
and fitting in the smaller ones as you go up. Where it is impossible to
fit clusters together exactly, I use a single appropriately sized pebble
to fill in the gap or perhaps a small piece of glass. Also, keep in mind
that the visual effect seems more interesting if the colors are randomly
arranged. If you employ the little clusters as apple or cherry blossoms
as I did in the lamp that appeared in the 2004 calendar, you then simply
fit them into your shade in place of the glass blossoms. There you have
it, a fascinating shade to create. Although it may take a bit more time
in the collecting and formation of the clusters, the end results are worth
it. I have found that working with pebbles is so enjoyable that I have
now created three pebble cluster shades (one includes geode slices) as
well as the cherry blossom shade. I’ve also finished a shade that
employs the pebbles in place of translucent gems – a take-off on
the Empire Jewel found on page 70 of the Lamps of Tiffany and also seen
in the collection of the New York Historical Society. Those at the Society
have been wonderful in sharing details of the lamp incorrectly measured
in the book! I hope you can all find a source of these “little gems”
and will enjoy creating with them as I have.
Since neither the magnificent base nor the pattern of the lamp design
were available, we in the Association of Stained Glass Lamp Artists had
to be content with dreams of how we would do this lamp if we were ever
given the chance! We discovered that Source One Lamp Bases makes a smaller
replica of this particular base. This lampbase includes the tulip lamps
that fit inside the shade. At about the same time, we discovered that
Paul Crist, the owner of Odyssey Lamp Systems had the patterns for both
the 25” and the 28” Ring Lotus and, up until that point, only
Paul Crist Studios had reproduced the Tiffany Ring Lotus. After hearing
of our great desire to get the pattern, Paul decided to give the Association
of Stained Glass Lamp Artists both of these designs. Thanks to the creativity
and hard work of Jan Randa, we now have a working pattern copy and instructions
for building a Lotus lamp that we can use with the Source One base.
Following are some instructions on using the Source One Lotus base.
•The 28” Lotus pattern from Paul Crist is shrunk to 20”.
(Each of the four pattern repeats will cover the area around two of the
eight stems of the base.)
•Two of Worden’s 19 1/2” styrofoam sectional molds are
glued together and sanded down so that they fit under two stems of the
•Cover the combined mold with masking tape.
•Begin the first section by drawing an outline on the mold of two
of the stems and then trace the lamp pattern around this outline.
•Cut and grind your glass pieces. Use a glass easel and light table
•The form should be tightly wrapped with Saran-Wrap.
•Foil your glass pieces and use Tacky-wax to hold them in position
on the Saran-wrapped mold.
•Tack solder this section and then remove it - along with the Saran
Wrap - from the mold.
•Now remove the Saran Wrap from the back of the glass.
•This section is now tack soldered to the stems.
•Since the stems are not uniform, you must repeat all the steps
for the other three section, starting with outlining the next stems and
drawing the pattern around them.
•After all four sides are attached to their stems, carefully fit
the sides together and complete soldering.
Three materials are needed for this method of casting jewels: a set of
all the different sizes of jewels to cast from, a shallow box or plastic
container to cast in, and hydroperm investment material. Hold the jewels
in place in the base of the box with Polygrip. Mix the hydroperm - 2 parts
powder to 1 part water by weight. To eliminate the possibility of bubbles
appearing, it is important to sift the powder into the water and slowly
stir it with a wooden dowel to avoid incorporating air. Wait for this
to set up. Once it has set, remove the jewels and clean around the edges
of the mold. Smooth around all the outside edges to reduce stress points
in the mold that might cause cracking. Score a grove around the outside
edge of the mold and use high temp wire to reinforce the mold. Before
adding glass, prepare the mold by firing it up slowly to the casting temperature.
Now, start adding and stacking frit, cullet or shaped pieces of glass
into the jewel molds. (If you use frit, you will get more bubbles.) Take
this to a full fuse and soak for about 20 minutes - making sure they anneal
as they cool. The resulting jewel s will have a milky glow when backlit,
but not as shiny as those you purchase. You can improve the shine by either
using Back Magic - a low temp fire polishing substance, or by using acrylic